American Express Membership Rewards is one of the best credit card rewards currencies out there. Membership Rewards points are valued at $0.01 each for most non-travel redemptions, including statement credits and most gift cards, but you can get the best value by using points for travel. Here’s everything you need to know about earning, transferring, and redeeming American Express Membership Rewards points.
Introduction to American Express Membership Rewards Points
What are American Express Membership Rewards points and why should I collect them?
American Express Membership Rewards points are the reward currency used for American Express branded credit and charge cards. What makes these points so great are the flexible redemption options, especially when redeeming for travel by transferring to partner airlines. If you have more than one credit card that earns American Express Membership Rewards points, they are automatically pooled into one account. It can be valuable to have multiple cards that earn Membership Rewards points since different cards come with different earning structures. For example, you can get 5x points on flights from Amex Platinum and 3x points at grocery stores from Amex EveryDay Preferred. While you can only get the sign-up bonus on Amex cards once per lifetime, it’s easy to accumulate Membership Rewards points quickly by opening multiple cards.
How much are American Express Membership Rewards points worth?
The value of American Express Membership Rewards points changes based on how you redeem them. For example, points are worth 1 cent or less when redeemed for gift cards. When it comes to travel, booking flights will yield a value of 1 cent but other travel like hotels and rental cars are worth closer to 0.7 cents each.
You can often find better value by transferring points at a 1:1 ratio to one of the Amex travel partners. Depending on how you redeem your transferred points, they can be worth well over 1 cent each. Unlike Chase cards, all Membership Rewards cards are eligible for travel partner transfers.
Other redemption options make points worth less than 1 cent each so you’ll want to avoid them if possible. For example, you can pay with points at Amazon for a value of 0.7 cents each. When redeeming for a statement credit, points are worth 0.6 cents.
Earning American Express Membership Rewards Points
What cards earn Membership Rewards points?
There are 6 personal and 4 business cards that earn Membership Rewards points. This table shows the annual fee and rewards earning structure for cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards points. You can read about each card in detail here.
|5x points on airline tickets and hotels booked on amextravel.com; 1x points on other purchases
|4x points on restaurant and supermarket purchases; 3x on airline tickets; 1x points on other purchases
|3x points on travel and restaurants; 1x points on other purchases
|No annual fee
|1x points on all purchases
|Amex EveryDay Card
|No annual fee
|2x points at grocery stores (up to $6,000 per year); 1x points on other purchases
|Amex EveryDay Preferred Card
|3x points at grocery stores (up to $6,000 per year); 2x points at gas stations; 1x points on other purchases
|Business Platinum Card
|5x points on flights and hotels book on amextravel.com; 1.5x points on purchases of $5,000 or more; 1x points on other purchases
|Business Gold Card
|4x points on the two categories from the following list (up to $150,000 in combined purchases each calendar year): Airfare purchased directly from airlines, U.S. purchases for advertising in select media, U.S. purchases at gas stations, U.S. purchases for shipping, U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers; 1x points on other purchases.
|Business Green Card
|$95, waived first year
|2x points on travel booked through amextravel.com; 1x on all other purchases
|Blue Business Plus Card
|No annual fee
|2x points on the first $50,000 in purchases each year; 1x points for all other purchases
What is the best strategy for applying for American Express Membership Rewards cards?
Since you can only get the sign-up bonus once per lifetime, you should prioritize American Express cards based on what offers are available to you. Targeted offers through the mail are generally the highest offers available. These tend to only go to people who have yet to sign up for an American Express card.
If you don’t think you’ll be receiving a worthy targeted mailer anytime soon, you can try looking for incognito offers. If you clear your cookies, open an incognito browser window, and look at the list of American Express cards, you may see some that have higher bonuses than the public offers. Incognito offers aren’t always available. I think it’s best to avoid the public offers if possible and only sign-up with incognito links. This way you can make the most out of your once per lifetime sign-up bonus.
Occasionally, a link for a better sign-up bonus will get leaked online. This has happened twice so far with a 100,000 point offer for the Amex Platinum. If you use a leaked link, your Membership Rewards points will be frozen for about 3 months while they investigate to make sure you properly earned the sign-up bonus. I signed up with a leaked link and came out okay on the other side. However, it can be scary to have your points frozen for months so proceed with caution.
If you are trying to remain under 5/24 with the purpose of getting more Chase cards, you should consider signing up for Amex business cards first. These cards will not be reported to your personal credit report so it will look like you have opened fewer cards.
How can I earn American Express Membership Rewards points?
1. Sign-up bonuses: The easiest way to earn points is through sign-up bonuses. However, you can’t churn these cards since the bonus is only available once per lifetime.
2. Take advantage of Amex Offers: Some Amex Offers provide bonus Membership Rewards points instead of offering a statement credit. This can be a good way to earn 1,000 or more points relatively quickly.
3. Everyday spending: I recommend using a combination of cards to maximize earning on everyday spending. If you have Amex EveryDay Preferred and make 30 or more transactions per billing cycle, you will always be earning at least 1.5 points per dollar spent because of the 50% point bonus. Consider adding other cards to your arsenal to take advantage of category bonuses like the 5x points for flights with the Amex Platinum.
4. Refer-a-Friend: You can receive bonus points for getting friends to sign-up for certain Amex cards. These bonuses vary but can be as high as 15,000 points per referral! However, the sign-up bonus from referral links is often less than what is available through an incognito link. Be selfless and encourage your friends to look for a better offer even if it means you’ll miss out on the referral bonus.
Redeeming American Express Membership Rewards Points
What are my redemption options?
You can redeem points for a statement credit for purchases from your current and previous billing periods. Points are 0.6 cents each so 10,000 points is equivalent to $600.
You can redeem points for gift cards usually starting at 1,000 points for a $10 gift card. The minimum points needed for redemption varies by store. You will usually get 1 cent per point but some gift cards are worth less than this. For example, points are worth 0.5 cents each when redeeming for Amex gift cards. Gift cards can be a decent option if you don’t have any plans for a travel-related redemption. Just make sure to get 1 cent per point when choosing a gift card.
You can shop for products on Amazon with your points but you lose value by doing so. Points are worth 0.7 cents apiece with this redemption. Amazon allows you to use any number of points to partially pay for a purchase.
Other Pay with Points Options
Other Pay with Points options include Best Buy, Boxed, Dell, JustGiving, NYC Taxi, Newegg, PayPal, RiteAid, Saks, Seamless, Staples, Ticketmaster, Walmart. You can read more about these options here. As with Amazon, this is not the best use of your points.
This option provides the worst value possible. Points are only worth 0.5 cents each when you shop for products on American Express’s shopping portal. In most cases, it would make more sense to redeem for a gift card and buy the product from the actual retailer. This is by far the worst way to redeem points. Avoid at all costs!
Now we’ve made it to the good stuff. This is the reason American Express Membership Rewards is such an important part of the points and miles game. As previously mentioned, you can redeem points for travel through American Express at variable rates (1 cent per point for flights, less than that for everything else). However, if you really want to get the most out of your American Express Membership Rewards points, you’re should look into transferring points to travel partners.
Who are American Express’s travel transfer partners?
You can transfer points to 20 travel rewards programs at varying rates. Look for programs that offer a 1:1 transfer ratio or better. Here are all of American Express’s transfer partners and their transfer ratios:
- Aer Lingus AerClub (1:1)
- Aeromexico Club Premier (1:1.6)
- Air Canada Aeroplan (1:1)
- Air France Flying Blue (1:1)
- Alitalia (1:1)
- All Nippon Airways (ANA) (1:1)
- Avianca Life Miles (1:1)
- British Airways Executive Club (1:1)
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (1:1)
- Delta SkyMiles (1:1)
- El Al Frequent Flyer Club (1:0.2)
- Emirates Skywards (1:1)
- Etihad Guest (1:1)
- Hawaiian Airlines (1:1)
- Iberia Plus (1:1)
- JetBlue (1:0.8)
- Qantas Frequent Flyer (1:1)
- Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer (1:1)
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (1:1)
- Choice Privileges (1:1)
- Hilton Honors (1:1.5)
- Marriott Bonvoy (1:1)
American Express runs promotions that improve the transfer ratio of certain programs. You can get some really great value when the transfer ratio is greater than 1:1!
If you transfer points to a U.S. airline, you have to pay an excise tax offset fee of $0.0006 per point (with a maximum fee of $99). You also have the option to use points to cover the fee.
According to One Mile at a Time, most points transfers are instantaneous. The following can take several days to post: Aeromexico, ANA, Iberia, and Singapore Airlines.
What are the rules for transferring American Express Membership Rewards points between accounts?
Unfortunately, you cannot transfer Membership Rewards points to anyone else. You can, however, transfer points to a frequent flyer or loyalty account an authorized user on your account. The authorized user accout must be open for at least 90 days.
You can add authorized users to Membership Rewards charge and credit cards easily. If you don’t want to add an authorized user, depending on the frequent flyer program, you can transfer points to your own account and book the flight on someone else’s behalf. Be aware that this won’t work with all frequent flyer programs so check the specific policy before you transfer your points.
How do I prevent my points from expiring?
American Express Membership Rewards points do not expire as long as you keep your account open. If you are planning on closing an account, here are your best options:
- Transfer points to a travel partner
- Redeem for a gift card
American Express Membership Rewards offers a lot of ways to earn and redeem points. You can get decent value out of gift cards, but the best value will come from transferring to frequent flyer programs. Make sure to do your homework before transferring points since you won’t be able to transfer back to Amex once you hit submit.
What was your most valuable Membership Rewards redemption?